ABPP Board Certification in
Clinical Neuropsychology –
What You Should Know
(For the Graduate Student)
Armstrong, K., Beebe, D.W., Hilsabeck,
R.C., & Kirkwood, M.W. (2008).
Board Certification in Clinical
Neuropsychology: A Guide to Becoming
ABPP/ABCN Certified Without Sacrificing Your
Sanity. New York: Oxford University Press.
* Note: AACN and the authors receive financial
compensation from the sale of this book.
Overview of Presentation
1) The ABC’s of ABPP Board Certification
2) The benefits of Board Certification in
3) Demystifying the ABPP board certification
4) Advice, strategies, and recommendations to
help make ABPP doable for YOU
The ABC’s of ABPP Board
APA - American Psychological Association (1892)
Primary professional membership and
advocacy association for professional
ABPP – American Board of Professional Psychology
– Created (1947)
Comprised of a unitary governing body and 15
affiliated specialty boards each linked to
specific sub-disciplines
ABPP’s 15 Member Specialty
Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology
Clinical Health Psychology
Clinical Neuropsychology
Clinical Psychology
Cognitive & Behavioral Psychology
Counseling Psychology
Couple & Family Psychology
Forensic Psychology
Group Psychology
Organizational & Business Consulting Psychology
Police and Public Safety Psychology
Psychoanalysis in Psychology
Rehabilitation Psychology
School Psychology
The ABC’s of ABPP Board
Certification (cont.)
ABCN – American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology (1981)
 The ABPP specialty board responsible for developing and
implementing the assessment procedures specific to clinical
AACN – American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology (1996)
 Membership organization comprised of ABPP/ABCN board
certified neuropsychologists
 Legally separate from ABCN
 Focuses on advocacy and education
BRAIN – Be Ready for ABPP in Neuropsychology
 Group of neuropsychologists (500+) whose sole goal is to
support neuropsychologists through process of becoming board
certified through ABPP/ABCN
 Has website, listserv, study groups, outlines, etc.
 Affiliated with AACN
The ABC’s of ABPP Board
Certification (cont.)
APPCN – Association of Postdoctoral Programs in Clinical
Neuropsychology (1992)
Federation of postdoctoral fellowship programs that
share common mission. All APPCN programs are led
by an ABPP/ABCN-certified neuropsychologist.
Other Boards
ABN (aka ABPN) – American Board of Professional Neuropsychology
 Separate board not affiliated with ABPP or ABCN
ABPdN – American Board of Pediatric Neuropsychology
 Separate board not affiliated with ABPP or ABCN
Benefits of Board Certification in
ABPP/ABCN board certification benefits:
The practitioner
The public
The profession
Potential Benefits to the
1. Credibility in the eyes of colleagues,
referral sources, trainees, and patients
Board certification is considered the norm in
medical specialties and is also used increasingly
in allied health professions, e.g., in pharmacy.
ABPP-CN is the oldest credentialing standard
for neuropsychologists, and AACN has the
largest number of board certified
neuropsychologists (in 2014, 1000+).
Potential Benefits to the
Practitioner (cont.)
2. Better Pay and Job Security
 Salary survey data (Sweet, 2006) indicate that
ABCN-certified neuropsychologists earn 1/3 more on
average and are more satisfied
Some institutions specifically link bonuses,
promotions, hospital privileges to board certification
Some (albeit very few) institutions are beginning to
require board certification as a condition of
Associated with pay differentials in the armed
services and pay differential in the VA systems
May SAVE you money as well
Potential Benefits to the
Practitioner (cont.)
Simplified credentialing/license and practice
 Can streamline licensing process in some
 Can help when joining insurance panels
Personal and professional development
Benefits to the Public - One mission
of ABPP/ABCN is to protect the
public by:
Enhancing Quality of Services/Quality
assurance through:
In most states, term “neuropsychologist” has little
legal protection
Verifying the competency and expertise of
psychologists providing consultation regarding
clinical neuropsychology to the public and its
Credible self-regulation via meaningful
examination and peer review process
Benefits to the Profession
1. Establishes clear standards for
2. Increased breadth and depth of
knowledge base of credentialed
Common Questions & Myths
Regarding Board Certification
1) “My supervisors and many of the
neuropsychologists I work with and respect
are not board certified - why should I be?”
 Relative to medical field, board certification in
psychology is relatively new
 ABPP, and particularly ABCN has been growing
very rapidly
 The number of new certifications in ABCN has
either exceeded any other ABPP subspecialty, or
been a close second to the clinical psychology
Common Questions & Myths
Regarding Board Certification (cont.)
2) I have heard that ABCN is an “old boys
 ABCN has worked diligently and carefully to help
assure a fair evaluation process.
 For 50% of the ABPP process your evaluators
are “blinded” to any identifying information about
the examinees.
 Approximately half of ABCN certified
neuropsychologists are women.
Common Questions & Myths
Regarding Board Certification (cont.)
ABCN is biased against pediatric/child clinical
Just under half of ABPP/ABCN certified clinicians
work exclusively with children or with both adults
and children (Sweet et al., 2006)
The written examination covers the entire age
spectrum and includes specialized pediatric
Many “adult” questions are actually general knowledge
questions regarding brain-behavior relationships
There are also questions regarding child development
The rest of the examination process will focus on your
preferred population (adult or pediatric)
Common Questions & Myths
Regarding Board Certification (cont.)
You need to be in the field for X years to be board
eligible (i.e., ready to sit for the written examination).”
 Historically there was a period post licensure that
applicants had to wait prior to being board eligible.
 This is no longer the case.
 Once a candidate has completed the necessary
training and licensure requisites, he or she is
considered board eligible.
Common Questions & Myths
Regarding Board Certification (cont.)
5. The preparation process for seeking board
certification is hugely time-consuming.
 ABCN’s goal is to facilitate this process
and make it as easy as possible for
 Early Entry Application: Allows graduate
students to apply for ABPP while in
 A number of web resources for this
process are available.
ABPP Early Entry Application
Submission of the application and a $25 fee
allows you to start the process and ABPP will
“bank” your credentials as you complete your
training and credentials
You can submit each credential/license as
they are completed and ABPP will simply
update your file
Saves you $100
Resources To Guide Your ABPP
1) ABPP (www.abpp.org)
 An
overview of ABPP and what board
certification means to psychology and to the
 A summary description of the ABPP and ABCN
 Important forms that you will need at each step
of the ABPP/ABCN certification process.
Resources To Guide Your ABPP
Preparation (cont.)
2) ABCN (www.theabcn.org)
 A description of ABCN and advantages to
board certification
A detailed description of the ABCN
An overview of the examination process
A listing of examination dates and deadlines
Answers to “frequently asked questions”
Links to the application materials at the ABPP
site and study materials at the AACN site
Resources To Guide Your ABPP
Preparation (cont).
3) AACN (www.theaacn.org)
 A description of the AACN and its mission
 Information on relevant educational programs
 Information re: the AACN mentorship program A
study guide
 AACN-sponsored seminars on the ABPP/ABCN
certification process at the major
neuropsychology conferences
 AACN Oxford Workshop Book: Board
Certification in Clinical Neuropsychology: A guide
to becoming ABPP/ABCN certified without
sacrificing your sanity
* Note: AACN and the authors receive financial compensation from the
sale of this book.
Resources To Guide Your ABPP
Preparation (cont).
BRAIN (http://brain.aacnwiki.org; anyone can access)
 Study outlines, flash cards, sample tests, and
sample study schedules
 A listserv comprised of peer neuropsychologists
who are already boarded or who are working
through the process (need to be licensed to join)
 Advice on how to approach each step of the
certification process (both via the website and the
 For listserv members, coordinated study and
support groups for the ABPP/ABCN written and
oral examinations
The 4 Steps to Board
Certification through ABPP/ABCN
Written Examination
Practice Samples
Oral Examination
General Information about the
ABPP Process
Application - $125*
Written Examination - $300
Practice Samples - $250
Oral Examination - $450
* ABPP Early Entry Application ($25)
The Application and Credential
Review – Basic Eligibility Criteria
All Applicants must have:
A doctorate in Psychology (specialty can include
clinical, counseling, educational, etc.)
A state/provincial license to practice psychology
*Specialty training in Neuropsychology (specifics
depend on when you completed your degree)
*Specific training criteria for Canadian Applicants are
available at the ABCN website
The Application and Credential Review –
Basic Eligibility Criteria (cont.)
For all candidates who complete training on or after
Your background needs to conform to the training
model of the Houston conference.
Equivalent of a 2-year full-time supervised postdoctoral residency/fellowship in clinical
The Application and Credential Review –
Basic Eligibility Criteria (cont.)
Basic Training Areas (see also application)
Basic neurosciences (microarchitecture of the
brain, neurochemistry, etc)
Basic neurosciences Clinical Neurology
Clinical Neuropsychological Assessment
Psychological Assessment
Psychological Intervention
The Written Examination
What is the Process?
100 Question Test – 2 hour time limit
+ 25 unscored questions that are used for beta testing
psychometric purposes
≥70 or higher score passes
Administered at Prometric Centers across the country
during 4 (2-week) time periods each year
 The test is developed and normed with PES – the
same company who writes the EPPP
The Written Examination – Dos
and Don’ts for Your Preparation
Brush up on applied neuropsychology concepts
Study diseases, disorders, and syndromes affecting
the CNS
Know your gross and functional neuroanatomy well
Review behavioral neurology topics
Revisit DSM and psychiatric disorders
Remember to look over relevant psychometric and
statistical topics
Consider taking practice exams available through
BRAIN and the APPCN Training Programs
The Written Examination – Dos and
Don’ts for Your Preparation (cont.)
Overfocus on any one specific topic
Lose the forest for the neuroanatomical trees
Worry about esoteric research methods or
stats concepts
Spend much time on ethics at this stage of
the process
The Written Examination –
Important Resources
BRAIN website – study notes, flashcards,
sample tests
BRAIN listserv – peer support, help finding
study groups, etc.
Peer Study groups
AACN Study Guide
AACN Mentor
The Practice Sample Review –
The Process
You submit to ABCN (online via ScholarOne)
two of your ORIGINAL neuropsychological
evaluation reports, as well as:
All raw data
Test score summary sheets
Professional data sheet
Cover letter (optional)
The Practice Sample Review –
How to Pick Your Cases
Do NOT try to find the perfect case – there is no such
 Pick cases that are moderately complex, reflect
your patient population, and demonstrate your
understanding of neuropsychological principles
The Practice Sample Review –
How to Pick Your Cases (cont.)
Have colleagues critique your cases – including
at least one ABPP/ABCN neuropsychologist
Neuropsychologists who review practice samples
will be the ones deciding whether you actually pass
DON’T have colleagues or mentors help you rewrite a report but Do have them help you to
determine if your case(s) are good choices for
The Oral Examination – The last
3 Sections of the Oral Examination
Review of Professional and Ethical
Practice Sample Review
The Oral Examination – What is
the Process?
Held twice a year in Chicago (in May &
3 1-hour blocks completed back-to-back
Results are typically provided within
10 days
The Review of Professional and Ethical
Issues – What is Being Assessed?
1. Your knowledge of current APA/CPA
ethical codes;
2. Your understanding of HIPAA and its
relevance to your practice; and
3. Your educational history, professional
practice and contributions to the field.
The Review of Professional and
Ethical Issues – What is the Task?
Ethical Issues:
You will be asked to identify ethical breaches in a
You will be asked to provide an ethical dilemma that
you have faced and resolved
Professional Issues:
You will provide a summary of your educational
history, professional practice, and contributions to the
field of neuropsychology
Dos and Don’ts for the Ethics
Portion of the Oral Examination
Review your ethical codes
standards, and pertinent
laws relating to your daily
practice (e.g., HIPAA)
Memorize standards and
Review some articles/books
that cover ethics applied to
Plan on “winging it” based
on the 1 or 2 times you read
the ethical codes when they
last came out
Practice Samples Review – What
is Being Assessed?
Your knowledge of your cases (pediatric or adult),
including the diagnosed disorder and related
conditions, as well as applied principles of functional
Your knowledge of psychometric principles, including
your choice of test battery and its appropriateness for
your particular patients
Practice Samples Review – What
is the Task?
Your examiner will ask you specific
questions regarding the two cases you
Questions are developed by your
examiner and by the 3 (or 4) reviewers
who evaluated your Practice Samples
The Fact-Finding – What is the
After selecting your case (either a child or adult
vignette) you will be expected to:
1) Gather all
presenting concerns
relevant history
behavioral observations
testing results
The Fact-Finding – What is
the Task? (cont.)
2) Summarize
thoughts on:
Differential diagnosis (& reasoning behind ruling diagnoses
Likely neurological localization (at least in terms of
anterior/posterior and left/right and/or subcortical
implicating profiles)
Possible etiologies
Relevant social and psychological issues and their impact
on the case and/or neuropsychological data
A concise summary of the testing results
Recommendations for treatment and possible prognoses
The Fact-Finding – Other
Important Details
You will have 50 minutes to collect the data
and summarize your findings.
 Time management is one of the biggest
challenges for this task
You will be examined using real clinical cases
The Fact-Finding – Steps to
Success (cont.)
Think about how to use your time (e.g.):
5 minutes to write out your template
20 minutes to collect the patient’s history
10 minutes to collect, review, and discuss test data
5-10 minutes to summarize the history, data
conceptualization, & present dx conclusions
5-10 minutes to discuss other possible etiologies if the
examiner provides new information to you
The Fact-Finding – Other
Important Details
The goal of the Fact-Finding is not simply to figure
out the patient’s medical condition. It is to show the
examiner how you approach neuropsychological
You do NOT have to determine the diagnosis or
etiology of your case to pass!!!
 Conversely,
getting diagnosis correct is not
sufficient for you to pass
The ABPP/ABCN Process – Final
Word of Encouragement
ABPP/ABCN board certification is not an
elitist goal – it is doable for anyone who
has trained to be a neuropsychologist
The PROCESS itself makes you a better
neuropsychologist which in and of itself
is worth pursuing.
The ABPP/ABCN Process –
Final Words of Encouragement
Consider all of the things you have accomplished (or
will!) :
Graduated college
Completed GRE
Applied to graduate school
Graduate course load
Master’s thesis proposal/defense
Qualifying examination
Research requirements
 Teaching assistantships
 Clinical practica
 Dissertation proposal/defense
 Internship
 Postdoctoral fellowship
 Licensing examination
 ABPP Board Certification
Yes the boarding process is challenging, but the shortterm investment (like many of the other things you have
accomplished) is well-worth the long-term benefit!

ABCN Grad Student Outreach - American Academy of Clinical